Superheroes of our time. How Lviv pediatricians help children not to be afraid
Children are delighted: "Recently, before escorting my colleague's 3.5-year-old boy to the operating table, I showed him a photo of his surgeon and anesthesiologist in a superhero costume."
Real superheroes are closer than we think. Doctors, nurses, ward attendants fight for the lives of others every day. Coronavirus has changed the lives of each of us, but especially our doctors. The heroes of our time have to work several shifts in a row, wear uncomfortable, suffocating costumes, withstand excessive stress, and forget about sleep and food.
For children, unlike adults, a superhero is not just a metaphor.
Images of incredible daredevils and strongmen in bright clothes are part of a child's actual life. Children love their idols not only for their beauty and world fame. The key thing is a magical force that helps them become powerful and omnipotent and get rid of the fear of any circumstances and obstacles. Flying cloak, intriguing mask, spectacular belt, gloves: these items actually have magical power, as they allow children to connect the imaginary world with reality and release their "inner" Batman into the real world, and become exactly the same as a favorite superhero.
To support children in treatment, the Lviv Regional Children's Hospital OKHMATDYT came up with and implemented a photo project "Superhero Doctors". 22 doctors changed into the costumes of the most popular superheroes. The Board of Trustees of OKHMATDYT implemented the project.
"No worries! Superheroes are working"
"The project idea has lived in me since I became a part of trusteeship and came to understanding the work of doctors better," a project organizer and member of the Board of Trustees Khrystyna Hevko says. "Images of superheroes and magicians immediately popped up in my head! Superhumans who safeguard, rescue, and protect. They may not sleep or eat but remain calm and balanced, making vital decisions every day. This image was particularly reinforced during the pandemic when we remembered why the medical profession is so important! In addition, I've long believed that a pediatrician in our country lacks lightness, which will help children not to panic in the hospital, not to be afraid of doctors."
The trustees were enthusiastic about the idea, but not everyone at the hospital immediately grasped the project's essence. At first, it seemed strange to several doctors. Some considered it frivolous and were ashamed. Doctors were worried because they used to be strict, in uniform, contained white coats. They were afraid that dressing up in costumes would become a laughingstock. But when professionals in love with their work undertook it, the wonderful doctors of the regional children's hospital became also fascinated and patiently endured all the "experiments" with costumes.
All participants were engaged in organizing and implementing the project absolutely for free. "Pink Glasses" studio, where Khrystyna Hevko is director, provided its own photo studio. The wonderful Tetiana Balaniuk, a long-term partner of the studio ("Nirka" rental of carnival costumes) gave the costumes. Viktor Moskaliuk, who did many other charitable projects in collaboration with "Pink Glasses," took photographs. After the "Superheroes" project, he also became a member of the Board of Trustees of Okhmatdyt. Make-up artist Natalia Giruk became the creator of make-up and hairstyles and models' great mood.
For doctors' convenience, Khrystyna Hevko brought many options for costumes to the studio. On the spot, doctors chose an image that is closest to the heart.
The photos were presented to doctors and guests at the 70th anniversary of Okhmatdyt in the Lviv Palace of Arts, also provided for free to celebrate the event.
"It was a pleasant shock," Khrystyna Hevko says. "Even skeptics reacted positively. This project overcame and removed the emotional barrier that had stayed for years. Pediatricians aren't just professionals, but specialist magicians! Their positive image should give joy to children, and confidence and peace to parents.
Now the photos meet all the children in the admission department of the hospital.
From the threshold, Okhmatdyt seems to say: no worries, Superheroes are working here.
The hospital also received photos on large canvases for free, now decorating the walls of the wards and making young patients smile cheerfully. The board of trustees took care of it.
"To my mind, "Superheroes" is a unique photo project aiming to overcome the fear of white coats to clarify that doctors and the patient are actually one team in the fight against the disease," the head of the Board of Trustees, pediatrician, associate professor of propaedeutics to pediatrics and medical genetics department, Andriana Malska says.
"The pediatrician should have a wonderful sense of humor and ability to become a small child at times. Many people have done it well before, and now favorite children's images will help. Recently, before escorting my colleague's 3.5-year-old boy to the operating table, I showed him a photo of his surgeon and anesthesiologist in superhero costumes.
In response, little Mateichyk boasted about his Captain America T-shirt and wasn't afraid to go further. Every day we're more and more convinced that the project works. It creates the atmosphere of a fairy tale, not a "terrible hospital."
Restless from Lviv
Andriana Malska considers the Board of Trustees of Lviv's Okhmatdyt to be atypical: "We're not worried about the rules, quorum, and protocols. Our trusteeship is a team of well-chosen enthusiasts. Now we manage to implement everything for free, just by finding like-minded people willing to get involved. We also include the entire hospital management, which facilitates our communication and speeds up decision-making."
At the hospital, they call the Board of Trustees "restless." During the work of its current composition, the board has done a lot: rebranding, celebration, stairwell reparations. Repair works of wards continue in the surgery department. Before the renovation in Okhmatdyt, council members managed to attract several candidates for this year's local elections. They responded to the trustees' proposal not to place extra election campaign billboards on the city streets but invest the funds planned for advertising in repairing the regional hospital stairs.
"Many new projects are already ongoing," Khrystyna Hevko adds. "We are working on a 2021 calendar (photos with superheroes) and creating a website and emotional video content. Andriana gathered wonderful people! We inspire one another and work with pleasure. Our mission is to improve the hospital's image and attract more extra-budgetary funds. It's a common world tradition when communities are active and understand that they have the taps in their hands and can change much qualitatively.
Burning with ideas and energy, Lviv residents say you need nothing special for social projects, but only the will and ability to make friends. Many simple and ingenious projects are plain to see. You don't need enormous sums of money or many people to help implement them. The world belongs to dreamers, and they, in turn, charge those who want to help with positive energy. At least, Khrystyna Hevko and Andriana Malska have always had that.
See photos from the "Superhero Doctors" project:
Photo from Facebook of Khrystyna Hevko